A few months ago I was at a graveside funeral for my uncle. After the service was over, I was visiting with several members of my family. As I was walking toward one of my cousins, a voice behind a mask said, "Hi, Darla. How are you?"
I didn't recognize the voice and I couldn't see her face, but she obviously knew me, so I said, "Hi, I'm fine, thanks. How are you?" To which she replied, "I'm good." And then we both kept moving in opposite directions.
Most people weren't wearing masks (they were not required), but she was, so I decided to turn around and look one more time to try to figure out who I'd just been talking to. It took a minute, but I recognized her as I watched her walking toward her car. It wasn't the masked face I recognized, though, it was her hair.
Now fast-forward to today at church. As I was walking into the auditorium where masks are required, I turned to look back over my shoulder. It was one of those turns you do when you know someone is behind you and you want to know who that someone is.
Well, once again, I didn't recognize the woman because of her mask. She said, "Hi, Darla." To which I said, "Hi," back. It wasn't until the service was in full swing that I saw her across the room with her family and knew that was who I'd spoken to. I also felt bad because I really like this lady and wished I would have taken the time to chat a minute or two--to see how she and her family were doing now that she and her husband (both teachers) are back in the classroom and their kids are in school, too. But I didn't, because I didn't know who I was talking to.
Now before you start thinking I'm the only one with a mask identification issues, I was wearing a face shield. It's clear, so there's no mistaking who I am. But not being able to recognize someone behind their mask isn't the point. The point I want to make is that if we are having trouble recognizing people behind their masks, then we have to wonder what else we're missing.
I use the term 'wonder' loosely, because I don't think there's much wondering to be done. Aside from not being able to easily recognize someone wearing a mask, you can't read their facial expressions, which is is proving to be detrimental in the classroom. Teachers can't see the blank stares when students don't 'get it'. They also can't see or smiles on their little faces when they do (get it). They can't see the sadness and worry because things are rough at home or because they are feeling scared, alone, or just plain sad. They can't see that grinning-from-ear-to-ear excitement when something wonderfully good has happened.
In other words, children and teachers are parading around day after day at a masquerade ball of sorts. No one really knows what's behind the mask; making it next to impossible to give students little else than the mechanics of the concepts being taught. Like a machine.
I'm not bashing the teachers. They are simply doing what they've been told to do. I'm also not saying it's the job of a teacher to raise a child. That's for parents to do. But what I AM saying is that teaching is about more than shoving a tablet or worksheet in front of a child and telling them to follow the directions. Oh, and if they need help, they can send an email or raise their hand (the one the teacher will see from afar and then do their best to help...from afar).
Teaching is about inspiring a child. Encouraging them. Cheering them on. Investing in them. Think about it--your favorite teachers aren't your favorites because they handed out cool worksheets or had hand sanitizer that didn't smell completely disgusting. No, your favorite teachers were those who took the time to know you--to get you excited about learning. To get you to think beyond the basics...to dream about your future.
Masquerading behind a mask is just not making the grade, so let's do what we can and work together as parents and teachers to make sure our kids' futures don't end up hiding from them.